Former student finds second calling through Ivy Tech
The Civil War is often called America’s bloodiest conflict, where roughly 2 percent of the population died due to wounds or illness.
Through amputation, surgeons and makeshift surgeons saved 60,000 men who likely would have been part of that 2 percent. This left tens of thousands without limbs. The government turned to Dexter–Russell Inc., the country’s oldest knife company, for an answer.
The question? Can you create a utensil to help some of the maimed Civil War veterans eat?
The result? A knife/fork combination (modern version pictured below). The curved bottom of this flat metal piece serves as the knife. One end of the hyperbola attaches to the wooden handle. The other separates into three fork tines.
Dexter–Russell opened its doors in 1818, and it still makes a version of that knife/fork combination. One is on display on the Dexter PROTOUR, a 30-foot RV that travels across the country to teach culinary students about Dexter equipment. Last semester, Ryan Trinkofsky parked the RV outside Ivy Tech Community College Northeast’s Coliseum Campus. It was the first time he’d visited Ivy Tech Northeast since he took classes about a decade ago.
Trinkofsky, a Florida native, joined the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in 1997, when he graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music with a specialty in percussion. He commuted the three or so hours from northeast Ohio for shows and practices for two years, until he signed a contract with the Phil and moved to Fort Wayne.
Trinkofsky had been a lover of music since he was a kid, he says—and he was also a lover of cooking.
“Ever since I was 10, I was always cooking and playing,” he says. “Music seemed to be more in the forefront, but I was coming home in middle school and starting dinner.”
Eventually, friends pointed out: “You seem to talk more about cooking than music.” They were right, he realized, and he signed up for three classes in Ivy Tech Northeast’s Hospitality Administration program: Sanitation and First Aid, Basic Food Theory and Skills, and Introduction to Baking.
The experience was so great, Trinkofsky says, he retired from the Phil, moved back to Florida, and enrolled at the Lincoln Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach to get a degree in culinary arts.
Trinkofsky’s experience—turning to a community college for a career change—is not unique, says Joe McMichael, the College’s director of Career Development: The average age of an Ivy Tech student is 26, which means adults are enrolling in community college years after they graduate high school and have held a job or two. About half of those returning adult students look to advance in their current positions; the other half is looking for a career change entirely, like Trinkofsky.
The College offers a number of resources to help those students. One of Career Development’s most useful tools for second-career students is the Indiana Career Explorer assessment, McMichael says. It looks at students’ strengths and weaknesses and matches those students with potential careers based on three assessments that look at students’ interests, values, and areas
“Say a student wants to be a nurse, but they’re not doing well in class,” McMichael says. “They will take the test, and nursing might show up (as a good career match), but so will human services or teaching.”
It makes sense that someone who succeeds in music would also succeed in food, like Trinkofsky: Both require people skills and creativity, McMichael says.
“All the things that make you a great musician translate to make you a great chef,” Trinkofsky says, ticking off on his fingers: dedication, passion, professionalism, technique.
As a culinary student in Florida, he got involved with the American Culinary Federation, the continent’s premier professional chefs’ organization, sitting on its board for two seasons. He entered competitions, winning the San Pellagrino Almost Famous Chef in 2013, where he met a representative for Dexter–Russell.
Throughout Trinkofsky’s professional career, he stayed in touch with that rep. As he was settling into a role as a private chef in West Palm Beach, Fla., the Dexter rep called him and said the company had a position open.
“You can’t go wrong working for a 200-year-old company,” he says. “They’ve gotta be doing something right.”